Nike’s high-tech shoe fails by seconds to propel runner into record books

Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge made a valiant attempt on Saturday to become the first human to run a marathon in under two hours, but missed out by just 25 seconds.

Held at the Monza F1 racetrack in Italy, the special Nike-organized “Breaking2” event took two years of preparation and involved seven months of intense training by Kipchoge and two other runners who also went for the record — Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.

The athletes completed 17.5 laps of the track, with Kipchoge apparently on course to break the two-hour barrier until the final two circuits when he started to fall behind schedule. Following the monumental effort, the Kenyan said that while he was disappointed not to have run the 26.2-mile course in the target time, he was happy to have completed a marathon in a shade over two hours.

Indeed, Saturday’s race saw the 2016 Olympic champion and 2016 London Marathon winner clock not only a personal best but also the fastest ever marathon, beating the previous record set in 2014 by a whopping 2 minutes 32 seconds. However, unfortunately for Kipchoge, it won’t be recognized by the sport as it didn’t take place at an official event.

Unlike regular marathons, Nike offered a little extra help to the runners by way of a digital display showing their current pace, elapsed race time, and projected finish time. The display was fixed atop a car that tootled along just ahead of the athletes the whole way.

Nike’s input also included equipping the elite runners with pairs of custom-made Nike Zoom Vaporfly Elite shoes as well specially made running shirts, shorts, and arm sleeves designed with comfort and temperature control in mind.

The running shoe is the first to incorporate Nike’s ultra-light ZoomX midsole cushion, which, the company says, works in tandem with a “unidirectional carbon plate with a specific geometry that enhances the propulsive sensation in each stride.” In other words, it’s meant to make you run faster.

Alas, for Kipchoge and his co-runners, the shoe’s unique design wasn’t quite enough to help them over the line in record time.

Oh, and in case you’re thinking you might need a pair of these particular running shoes for your next session on the running machine, then prepare to be disappointed. They’re not on general sale, though some of the technology featured in the shoe’s design is likely to find its way to Nike’s consumer offerings before too long.

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